Boy, you hate to read this: Reality TV may finally be sputtering out after a 20-year reign thanks to--of all things--quality programming. Could this be evidence of the decline? Vicki Gunvalson, the only original cast member left on the pioneer of Bravo's Real Housewives franchise--The Real Housewives of Orange County--and the supposed West Coast businesswoman answer to Bethenny Frankel, reportedly can't afford to move into her Dana Point dream home.
The current so-called new golden age of television has brought viewers Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Homeland, True Detective, The Good Wife and a slew of other smart, surprising and highly addictive programs. At the same time, new and old reality shows seem tired, redundant and innovation challenged, Jennifer Gerson Uffalussy writes in The Guardian.
If only unscripted television had better scripts!
Take it away, Ms. Uffalussy:
When Bravo's The Real Housewives of Orange County, itself seemingly a mix between Desperate Housewives and the just-concluded scripted teen hit The O.C., first debuted in 2006, it was shocking in its, well, realness. Viewers gasped with glee at the star's McMansions and marriages, proud of clearly understanding more about these unknowable lives than the players themselves. The series' success led to installments in other cities. There are now or have been Real Housewives franchises in New York City, New Jersey, Atlanta, Beverly Hills, Miami, and Washington, D.C., as well as spawning a current tally of nine spin-off series and international franchises in Greece, Israel, Canada, France, Australia, the UK, and South Africa.
But cracks have started to appear in the seemingly bulletproof housewives formula. The Real Housewives of New York City, the second installment of the franchise following Orange County, attracted only 1.3 million viewers, just more than half of the previous season and a fraction of earlier seasons. Perhaps these numbers reflect how with each new iteration of the same old show, the biggest problem seems to be not that audiences grow overly familiar with the format, but rather the reality stars themselves are too aware of the constructs of their own on-screen personas -- and their desire to parlay their television appearances into other business ventures. Let us not forget that for every Bethenny Frankel-helmed Skinnygirl cocktail line, there is also a Gretchen Rossi-founded knock-off purse-cum-cosmetics brand. The story lines seem increasingly aggressive and painfully scripted, consisting of: the "girls' trips," the drunken brawls, the hair-pulling, the marital strife.
As with Gunvalson's many other ventures aimed at trading off her fame, Vicki's Vodka was supposed to make a mint.
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But while Frankel sold her Skinnygirl company to Fortune Brands' Beam Global for an estimated $100 million, Vicki's Vodka has been the source of litigation, with Gunvalson suing a former business partner for alleged fraud.
Besides dealing with that, Gunvalson has been unable to unload her Coto de Caza home for the $2.899 million she wants, making her unable to purchase the Dana Point pad she and her old man, Brooks Ayers, have their eyes on, reports RadarOnline.
Her peeps blame a 30 percent decline this year for the Dana Point deal falling through -- the decline being in home prices, not television ratings.